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INVITATIONS
TOWARD
RE-WORLDING


   

Score for x


Scored by Kevin GOTKIN


ask yourself for clarity.

for a while i thought i was writing a “score for access integration.” this could be a way to respond to cultural institutions wondering how they should build access practices into their organizations.

but then i was like hmm no? because access could better be thought of as an ecology than a discrete set of tools that need to be integrated into some larger thing. actually, the very idea that questions of access are somehow specific to considerations of disability emerges from a legislative tradition that centers compliance and liability in the public notions of the word “accessibility.”

but access just is. i don’t think there is any space that doesn’t have access. but there are certainly spaces whose access ecologies severely limit possibilities for engagement. there are spaces, so many spaces, whose access ecologies are designed by ableism.

when we think of accessibility, our thoughts snap to certain things, for good reason. the missing ramp, the absent captions, no one reading the chat in zoom. these are experiences of the points of contact between disabled bodyminds and shitty access ecologies. this is disability expertise.

so: an ecological sense of access. but still: how do we make specific choices to design these access ecologies? like, where do we start?

oof i often struggle to give advice. part of it is that i do kinda think the only person i can reliably change is myself. and that advice just so rarely maintains its shape across lifeworlds. but it’s also the way advice, formally, feels like a checklist, feels like an object whose possession determines some moral truth. who can give that?

but the score! it’s like instruction-adjacent! i feel like the magic of the score is that neither the structure nor the performance it invites is really known in advance. let’s find out?

release the hypothetical.

with compliance-minded-ness often comes a slew of hypotheticals. i imagine them as 3-dimensional stick figures sauntering around pointing to literally anything and being like “...that?” and then everyone is like omg yeah wait…that. we should change that. how do we change that? silence.

i notice that for many organizations, it’s easier to move in endless circles of abstraction about access design than to begin to know more precisely who is involved in a thing. this is how ASL interpreters end up signing to packed zoom meetings of all hearing people.

maybe need is always speculative. when people ask me if my access needs are being met, i’m usually like mmm, perhaps? how am i to know that? it depends!

but the speculative nature draws us to specificity. when we ask each other what forms of care we might need for a gathering, i think the point is not so much the actual provisioning of those forms. what matters is whether we can share detail of what is already known and intended so that we can contemplate and discuss forms of care.

how are we supposed to know which “accommodations” we need to request by a certain date when all we have is an event title? requests for “accommodation” indicate that a form has been set. but then why don’t we get any information about that form in advance?

some cultural anthropologists do this thing when they write up ethnographic data where they create composite characters of the people in their research. this protects individuals’ privacy. it brings focus to salient features, true features, through a rearrangement of specificity.

it feels like the composite could be a good form for access design. composites are not just invented. but they also don’t rely on the individuation of experience.

you know what that kinda feels like? a score! there’s this pattern laid out here. but you have to do something, a doing in a moment, to accept the invitation.

plan to find the plan.

access planning is like: ok, we want to make space for arrivals to a zoom meeting instead of just flying into things with no attention to the vastly different access ecologies we’re zooming in from. but then if we leave 15 minutes of unstructured time for people to get into the space, that’s also awkward. so let’s offer invitations for what to do with those 15 minutes and all choices are good choices.

access planning is saying: please disrespect whatever etiquette is operative right now in the service of your engagement.

access planning is like: hello, unexpected guest. you bring fab energy. lemme invite you to dm our access doula over here if you need to get oriented to what we’re doing. hi, welcome.

access planning is like: we spent the whole meeting figuring out how to manage this one technical aspect and you know what? it didn’t get in the way of anything. that was the agenda.

x.

having been in community with other disabled and chronically ill people for over a decade now, i have learned a lot about friends’ personal, political transformations with the history and culture of disability.

but lately i find myself looking for all the small, small moments where “disability” lives whether or not we give it that language. i learn about friends’ years-long search for a diagnosis they finally found. i study the grimace of a television character in pain. i notice the way people i love simply cannot bear to have the intensity or pace of their professional lives let up even for a second.

i don’t want to rush to call this anything. i don’t want to escape it. i don’t want to figure it out and diminish it.

what we do with all this - how we try and fail to form trust through all this - is a gloriously unknown variable. it’s an x in the broad equation, with calculations of risk and joy and temporality that we can feel rapidly shifting in our catalytic moment.

how do you score for that?


Image description:  Kevin Gotkin faces away from the camera and smiles over their shoulder. They wear glasses, a gray beanie, and a sheer black long-sleeve with a white vest over it. The white vest has an iridescent design on the back that shines in the sunlight.
Image description:  Kevin Gotkin faces away from the camera and smiles over their shoulder. They wear glasses, a gray beanie, and a sheer black long-sleeve with a white vest over it. The white vest has an iridescent design on the back that shines in the sunlight.

Kevin Gotkin
They/Them/He/Him/His
Lenapehoking, Brooklyn, NY


Kevin Gotkin is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, & Communication at NYU. Gotkin completed their Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Gotkin teaches and writes about disability, media, and public culture. In 2016, they co-founded an organization called Disability/Arts/NYC that works with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs with the goal of getting disability arts represented in cultural policy—successfully lobbying for a $640,000 fund specifically for disability arts initiatives. Through Disability/Arts/NYC, they also trained two cohorts of activists and artists to disperse disability expertise around NYC, in addition to running programming around the city at the Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and more. Kevin Gotkin is also a DJ, party girl, and lover of nightlife artistry. They lead the REMOTE ACCESS party series, which is a disability-centric initiative developed with members of the Critical Design Lab that they help organize with Aimi Hamraie of Vanderbilt University.




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